As we turn our attention to all things Earth-friendly and sound environmental practices on this Earth Day, it is important to also consider the environment when planning events.
The events industry has a marked impact on the environment. From long-distance travel, to the mountains of paper products and brochures that large scale events create - considering sustainability as part of the planning process should be added to any good event planners’ checklist.
Sustainable events are more than a buzz word - they are the new norm in our industry. While it might seem daunting to audit our current organizing process, vendors, and venues, there are actually many benefits to making events more environmentally friendly.
What is Event Sustainability?
The definition of “event sustainability” is taking action towards preserving our natural environment; promoting a healthy, inclusive society; and supporting a thriving economy.
There are four principles for event sustainability that support the sustainable development goals that were adopted and put forth in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These principles were developed in order to help combat the impact events have on the environment.
Principle 1: Event organizers and suppliers share responsibility for implementing and communicating sustainable practices to their stakeholders.
Event organizers set the stage - literally. They hold the power to make sustainability a priority in the planning process.
Principle 2: Basic environmental practices.
These practices can include resource conservation, waste management, carbon emissions reduction and management, supply chain management, responsible purchasing, and biodiversity preservation
In an industry that often creates tons of landfill waste during a weekend conference, it is important to consider best practices for future attendees.
Principle 3: Basic social considerations.
Universal human rights, impact on the community, fair labor practices, respect for host culture, safety, security, and health and well-being are all important considerations to think about when choosing an event location and should be part of the planning process.
88% of consumers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly. Translation? These items are important to your event attendees, and therefore, they should be highly considered when making any event decision.
Principle 4: Sustainable events support thriving economic practices.
Thriving economic practices include collaboration and partnerships, local stakeholder participation that also includes small and medium enterprises, economic equality, transparency, and responsible governance.
How to Build a Sustainable Event
The environmental impact of an in-person event is huge. Not only does one have to consider the amount of physical waste each attendee creates, the carbon footprint of travel to and from said event is staggering.
What can an event planner or hosting company do to take responsibility and combat these negative effects?
There are many options to consider. One is to ditch a full in-person event in favor of virtual or hybrid events. Virtual events have a drastically lower environmental impact than in-person events. Virtual or hybrid events eliminate the problematic aspects of air and land travel that large scale in-person events require.
If a virtual or hybrid event is not possible, event planners and companies should look for sustainable venue options. A sustainable venue might be located in an area with reliable public transportation and nearby restaurants, lodging, and attractions. They might also utilize alternative energy resources like solar panels and lower efficiency systems of light and power.
Catering choices are also important when planning an earth-friendly and sustainable event. Purchasing food and beverage supplies locally wherever possible helps to avoid long-distance supply chain travel.
Food waste can be minimized by taking advantage of local growing seasons, and by avoiding disposable food and beverage service wares. Compostable materials for plates, cups, and cutlery should be considered when reusable supplies are not available.
One more option to consider is to go paperless. Event technology has come a long way - huge advancements were made out of necessity during the pandemic. There is no longer an absolute need for anything printed - all event information can be shared digitally and updated in real-time. Not only does this practice help to save the environment, it can save money in the event budget as well. Printing paper materials is not green nor budget-friendly.
Sustainability is a Responsibility
Event sustainability doesn’t happen overnight. It takes careful consideration and planning. Event producers must be intentional, and create and define specific event sustainability goals.
As mentioned before, this is not a fad, but a new norm in event planning. It is also something that you can use to your advantage. We live in a society that is increasingly drawn to environmentally friendly practices. Consumers and event attendees will be more likely to align themselves with companies that share their same values and ideals. Promoting your earth-friendly practices to your clients, shareholders, and attendees will only help drive your events’ success!
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